The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, an interfaith peace building and conflict transformation organisation say UPDF’s continued presence on foreign soil and involvement in cross-border wars could plunge the country into instability.
The clerics in a report signed by the group’s chairperson, Bishop Johnson Gakumba of the Diocese of Northern Uganda, warned that the continued presence of the soldiers in the DR-Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan purportedly to “finish off” the LRA rebels risks straining the inter-border relationship.
The statement, which was released last week, asked the government to swiftly develop plans to withdraw the troops from where the LRA rebels are operating to save the image of the country.
“The population in the LRA conflict affected areas views the presence of UPDF in their countries as engineering the rebels’ continued killing and maiming in the areas,” the statement reads in part, adding that the operation to flash out the LRA has turned into a lucrative business for some senior UPDF officials.
In September 2007, Ugandan troops were accused of looting truckloads of valuable timber from South Sudan while pursuing the LRA who were hiding in the region, according to Swiss-based research group, the Small Arms Survey.
The vice chairperson of the clerics, Sheikh Musa Khelil, in a separate statement said top leaders in the government hide the truth about the situation in the neighbouring countries where the LRA are, including where they no longer pose a threat.
“Finding a lasting solution to the LRA menace is better instead of counting on what does not really help us,” he said.
However, the 4th Division spokesperson, Capt. Peter Mugisha, said yesterday the army does not have the same course as the religious leaders but he respected their opinion in regards to peace. Capt. Mugisha, however, said the army would heed to the clergies views because people across the LRA infested zones appreciate their work in maintaining peace.
“The religious leaders’ decision does not go in line with our course because through our continued pursuit of the LRA, we have achieved a lot on reducing the number of abductions and killings that the LRA has been carrying in those countries,” he added.